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Why there's no edge, only drive, with KU women's hoops this season

Jayhawks' sole focus is on enjoying the ride and winning

3 min read
KU senior Holly Kersgieter looks to make a play during the women's scrimmage at Late Night in the Phog earlier this month. [Chance Parker photo]

At around the same time that the leaders of the Kansas women’s basketball team were meeting with the media at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City on Tuesday, the first Associated Press Top 25 poll of the season was released.

The Jayhawks weren’t in it.

That makes voting bodies two for the last two in getting it wrong with this team. Not to worry, though. These Jayhawks weren’t the least bit bothered by it.

Lesser players might’ve taken the platform the Jayhawks had on Tuesday and turned it into an opportunity to whine about how they believe they belong or are being overlooked.

I didn’t hear anything close to that from Zakiyah Franklin, Taiyanna Jackson or Holly Kersgieter on Tuesday.

A less secure coach than Brandon Schneider might’ve done the same thing, using his time at the microphone to throw stones while tapping into one more method of motivation for the upcoming season.

But these Jayhawks don’t need that. They know who they are. And they believe, perhaps more than any Kansas women’s team in the past 20 years has believed, that their play will show the college basketball world all it needs to see.

Just as they did last March, when the Jayhawks responded to being left out of the NCAA Tournament by dominating the competition en route to winning the WNIT, I’d expect this group — an even better version than the team that Schneider had last season — to make a statement in the months ahead.

It’s hard to know exactly what that statement will be. And it could be everything from a return trip to the NCAA Tournament to a deep run during the dance or winning the Big 12 title. All of those are realistic goals for this group and they know it.

What’s more, they’re willing to work for it.

See, the 2023-24 season is the final go-around for the three KU players who were at T-Mobile Center on Tuesday. While none of them really care much about individual accolades, this is their last chance, as individuals, to make a splash. It just so happens that, for all of them, the best way to do that is by giving everything they’ve got for the good of the team.

And they can do that with reckless abandon because they know their legacies are secure. Make no mistake about it, what you’re watching this season in Franklin, Jackson and Kersgieter are three of the best players to ever come through the Kansas women’s basketball program. More than that, they’re one of the best trios the program has ever seen.

And they have help, too. The bench is better — that was by design. The rotation should be solid through eight or nine. And there are two freshmen on this roster who very soon will be viewed as worthy heirs to the title of team leaders and future faces of the program.

One is a local kid, S’Mya Nichols, who through her play and personality alike will be, by herself, worth the price of admission to a Kansas women’s basketball game this season.

The other is Spanish prospect Laia Conesa, a tough-as-nails, wise-beyond-her-years, still-adjusting-to-American-culture guard who has steady-star potential written all over her.

And then there’s fifth starter and point guard Wyvette Mayberry, whom Schneider has said might be the most underrated player in America. She’ll get her chance to show that this year, much in the way Dajuan Harris Jr. will with the KU men — there’s just so much talent around both of them and each, on his and her own, is a pretty damn good talent, too.

So, yeah. It would be easy to look at that first AP poll of the 2023-24 season and see the Jayhawks receiving votes in the No. 28 spot and think they got screwed. After all, they did.

Just like last season, when they should’ve been in the NCAA Tournament and knew it, this group knows they belong mentioned among the 25 best teams in America.

But not being formally placed there yet might be the best thing to happen to this bunch yet.

After all, they haven’t done anything yet. But they sure seem poised and ready to change that.

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